Employees will be eligible for statutory sick pay from their first day off work, rather than their fourth successive day of absence, in a bid to tackle the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19).
Prime minister Boris Johnson made the announcement during today's Prime Minister's Questions saying "no one should be penalised for doing the right thing".
The announcement follows pressure from trade unions who argued that workers on statutory sick pay (SSP), including catering employees, should not be penalised financially for following government advice and self isolating if required.
Both Sodexo and ISS, who supply catering services in hospitals, had already said their employees would be paid from their first day of absence if related to coronavirus.
Employers without sick pay schemes must pay SSP, which is currently £94.25 a week, for up to 28 weeks. Under current legislation employees are entitled to SSP from their fourth day off and do not receive payment in relation to their first three days of absence.
Yesterday ISS had said that though there was no legal statutory right to sick pay for those in self-isolation or quarantine, "providing that an employee is able to provide reasonable evidence for the reason that they are self-isolating and are unable to work (for example, travel documents), the employee will receive their usual pay".
It added that if an employee was not sick but advised by management not to attend their place of work "they should receive their usual pay".
ISS stressed that the new policy only applied to cases associated with coronavirus. "If an employee reports sick but does not meet the above criteria, their usual contractual sick pay conditions will apply," it said.
GMB regional organiser Lola McEvoy said: "Full pay from day one for NHS contract workers is an urgent priority for public safety given the escalating coronavirus crisis.
"This announcement that ISS will give full pay to everyone required to self-isolate is the direct result of GMB members' bravery in campaigning at Homerton Hospital and across the UK.
"This is an admission of the failures of statutory sick pay and increases the pressure on government to now follow ISS' lead and ensure no worker is forced to make the choice between public safety and paying their rent."
Last week Sodexo said it would be paying hospital contractors, including catering workers, who may be required to self-isolate if found at risk from coronavirus, after concerns were raised by the union.
Public Health England's advice for people needing to self-isolate while awaiting test results for Covid-19 is to stay at home away from other people, monitor symptoms and to wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before rinsing and drying thoroughly. If an illness worsens or becomes severe people are advised to call their designated medical contact or to seek prompt medical attention by calling an ambulance.
Dr Lisa Ackerley, chartered environmental health practitioner and adviser to UKHospitality, has also released specialist advice for the hospitality industry.